peteg's blog - noise - books - 2013 09 22 Ribbat FlickeringLight

Cristoph Ribbat: Flickering Light: a history of neon

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Jon pointed this work of cultural criticism out to me. The first chapter is strong, and the references quite rich, but it tails off as it starts to free-associate; sometimes the author has done little more than find the word "neon" in some pop artifact. It is often too broad and does not account for the technology. What was it that Zappa said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture? There are not enough photos. It seems that most artists get their neon fabbed by someone else; that's certainly true of Tracey Emin. Some good pointers: Nelson Algren, Rudi Stern. I fished Sprengnagel's Neon World out of the UNSW Library. I need to read Wolfe's take on Vegas. Ribbat is completely off base with the sound of neon: it's alarms, sax, metal on metal, an improv gig, industrial, early 80s movies, Barry Adamson's Moss Side Story.

A review in Slate.